What Is Growth Hacking and How Can Marketers Use It to Their Benefit?

growth hackingGrowth hacking is the strategy of leveraging experimentation across marketing channels to achieve swift business growth. Though there are no boundaries to the methods that a growth hacker employs, many of their strategies are carried out using digital marketing channels such as social media or influencer marketing.

Infamous for his successful growth-based strategies that launched brands such as Dropbox, Eventbrite, and LogMeIn, Sean Ellis is credited with coining the term “growth hacking” in 2010. The term was born from a need to better describe the unique role that growth hackers played in the marketing strategies at the companies they worked for. Additionally, businesses needed a label in order to recruit effectively for this specialized position.

Whereas tactics from standard disciplines, such as search engine optimization (SEO) or search engine marketing (SEM), can provide implementations that assist a growth hacking strategy, growth hacking is not limited to one specific channel. SEO or SEM strategists might focus on implementing a channel-specific strategy that improves a subset of preselected key performance indicators (KPIs). However, the growth hacker’s sole focus is on increasing and sustaining a business’ users and engagement.

Growth Hacking Strategies

Though growth hacking usually features unconventional or out-of-the-box techniques, there are still some very familiar digital marketing strategies.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a standard digital marketing tactic, but building a strategy based on user growth and engagement takes time and research to find out which topics drive the most passion from your potential audience.

Selfless and engaging content delivered in a variety of mediums, such as blogs, infographics, and videos, help to tell a story and drive users to your site and discover your products and services that may otherwise not be searching for your business. While content marketing is typically a top-of-funnel marketing tactic, it does build loyalty. This loyal fan base is more likely to convert, if they have found value in your content.


If your business has intellectual property that is of value to others, it can be beneficial to offer it for free in exchange for valuable information such as an email, whitepapers, eBooks or free trials are all things that, if high enough in quality, can be traded for an invaluable contact point with your user base (such as their email).

With great power, however, comes great responsibility. After building a large email list it can be tempting to immediately try to sell to your new audience. Understand what it was that brought your users to trust you with their contact information and be sure to consider the value of the relationship above the sale in the early stages of launching your business.

A/B Testing

Growth hacking is about more than growth, it’s also about engagement and sustainability. Performing regular A/B testing on your site based on analytics data or heat mapping can help provide insights into the user experience on your site.

Sometimes a small adjustment in something like the color or size of a submission button can lead to a quick increase in goals.

Growth Hacking Examples

How has growth hacking been successful? Some of today’s most influential companies have found their way to heightened success, all thanks to their willingness to experiment.


When Twitter originally launched it had reasonably rapid signup rate, however, users were not staying engaged with the new platform at the rates that the company would have liked.

Extensive internal testing and studies concluded new users that had found 5-10 accounts to follow on their first day were much more likely to stay engaged over time than those who did not. To address this, Twitter continued to make adjustments to the sign-up process, eventually recommending relevant accounts to follow upon signing up in order to make new users feel more invested in using the platform from day one.

This one adjustment subsequently resulted in a rapid wave of growth and engagement, ultimately leading to the social network’s current success.


Another great example of a successful growth hacking strategy is now one of the core components of the internet’s largest employment-oriented social networking services.

By simply allowing users to create public profiles, LinkedIn grew its user base 100x. As a trusted source of information, these profile pages began to regularly show up in organic searches for searches related to the user’s proper names.


When the company was still in its infancy, Airbnb grew quickly by employing a series of growth hacking strategies that leveraged the popularity of one of its top competitors for finding temporary housing – Craigslist.

One of the techniques involved prompting existing Airbnb users during the property listing creation process to cross-post their listing, with little extra effort, to Craigslist. This helped to drive additional traffic from the popular site and boost Airbnb’s awareness and engagement early on.

Has your business or agency seen success with a particular growth hacking technique? If so, share your experiences and successes in the comments below.

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